I've been sitting with a blinking cursor and a blank page for some time now, wondering not so much how to say what I mean but what exactly it is I mean to say on the subject of the tragically late David Foster Wallace.
I certainly feel something about his death and there have been ample obituaries and memorial articles to commemorate his life to make whatever it is I have to say (if ever I find it) superfluous. So here are the basics. Sadness—that such a monumental soul has quit our company. Anger—that anyone should feel the need to bring about their own end so abruptly. I'm a proponent of the right to die but that doesn't mean I'm happy when people exercise that right. Disbelief—because what else do you feel about someone who is obviously still alive in their work even though they no longer have a flesh-and-blood body?
And Fear. Yes, I think that's what I'm dancing around. Not so much the Fear of Death that's a waste of energy. It's the fear that a soldier fresh from bootcamp feels after encountering a veteran who no longer thinks about the end because he's much more concerned about everything that is still going to happen in the meantime. It's an emotion that's ineffable but still, oddly, palpable. Make no mistake, what writers do is no less dangerous than what soldiers do, albeit in a different way. Our bodies may remain intact and our idiosyncracies and humor might gloss this daunting reality, but every now and then there's a stark reminder that what we do is not all fun and games. David Foster Wallace was just such a casualty. The danger behind honesty and insight, both consistent qualities in Wallace's work, is in finding harsh realities that are neither palatable nor, evidently, bearable. Our profession is not without its rewards, or no one would do it at all, but it's by no means to be taken lightly.
We offer our prayers and love to Wallace's survivors.